Eastside Railroad Media Watch

Below are links to newspaper articles, editorials and guest columns related to progress in stopping King County Executive Ron Sims' effort to scrap the Eastside railroad:

Eastside train a bad proposal (Seattle P-I, April 30, 2008)

This is a very confused editorial by a member of that small, but highly vocal, minority that is opposed to commuter rail service on the Eastside.

For example, the writer, a NIMBY, states that the push to save the railroad and start a commuter service on it began with Canadian rail magnate Tom Payne. In reality, however, it is a broad-based, grassroots movement that began long before Payne became actively involved. Payne is merely the most conspicuous of several contenders who are lobbying for rights to operate the railroad.

The writer goes on to say that operating commuter trains on the railroad would be "the essence of insanity" because there are homes, schools and intersections nearby. But rail transit services are operated all over the U.S. and abroad which are near homes and schools and intersections. Why would it be any more insane here? And what about the continuous widening of I-405 and arterials that pass by homes, schools and intersections, with their ever-growing traffic volumes and toxic emissions -- isn't this the true insanity?

The writer adds: "If a rail line is to be built at all, the only logical, efficient and practical choice would be along I-405." But there is little that is "logical, efficient and practical" about constructing such a rail line. It would be extremely costly, at several hundred million dollars a mile. Construction would take many years, or decades, and would likely cause much disruption to the already clogged I-405. And it would be poorly located with regard to convenience of stations, in contrast to the generally excellent location of the existing railroad.

The writer concludes: "Let's return to the original and beautiful concept of a hiking and biking trail..." He may not be aware of the fact the actual plan being pushed by the hard-core bicycle lobby is not a tranquil trail in the woods for strolling and leisurely bicycle rides. Rather, it is a high-speed bicycle raceway whose 20-to-30 foot width pavement could devastate what is now essentially a bucolic greenbelt. Could the destruction of what could be the core of a modern, low noise, low emissions, and safe, rail transit system and of its accompanying greenbelt, together with the continued widening of toxics-spewing I-405, be the "wonderful legacy for future generations" to which the writer is referring?

Public input sought on plan for Eastside rail, trail (Seattle Times, April 26, 2008)

The most significant statement in this short article is: "But Port Commission President John Creighton and Port CEO Tay Yoshitani told Sims and the County Council in a letter Wednesday that future rail uses have priority over the trail." Whatever the failings of the Port may have been in the past, it is now clearly on the right side in protecting the future of one of our most important transportation assets from the ill-conceived schemes of a currently dysfunctional County administration.

Tracks to remain on trail-rail corridor (Seattle P-I, April 14, 2008)

King County Executive Ron Sims is quoted as saying in a letter to the County Council: "There are no immediate plans to remove the rails." However, the article fails to mention that he had no choice but to do so because the Port of Seattle wisely ignored his unpopular and urgent plea to scrap the railroad as quickly as possible.

The article also said: "Freight trains still provide service to several businesses north of Woodinville in the corridor." Somehow it overlooked the fact that freight trains still provide service to several businesses in Bellevue as well.

Eastside organization pushes for rail service (Bellevue Reporter, February 23, 2008) -- This is mainly a summary of the February 19 town hall meeting in Bellevue to discuss launching a commuter rail service on the Eastside railroad. The turnout was good (despite being primary election day), and the participants were nearly unanimous in (1) their frustration with the failure of Seattle-based government agencies to rationally address transportation issues on the Eastside, (2) their support for saving the railroad and (3) their desire to get a commuter service launched on it as quickly as possible. One of the most significant and representative comments was made by a participant who, referring to the hundreds of millions of dollars in sales tax revenues already collected by Sound Transit on the Eastside and the far more to be collected in the coming years, said: "They have collected all this money from us and all they've given us are some buses."

Talks continue over Eastside rail corridor (Seattle P-I, February 7, 2008) -- This short article states that there has been a short delay in completion of negotiations between the Port and BNSF. Acquisition of the Eastside railroad (including land, easements and infrastructure) is a large, complex and history-making transaction, so delays should not be unexpected.

Sound Transit gives rail line a boost (Seattle Times, February 2, 2008) -- The problem with this article is not so much with what it does say, but with what it does not say -- or greatly understates. For example, the first paragraph says:

Sound Transit's move on Thursday to consider a commuter rail line along the BNSF corridor from Snohomish to Renton was a big boost to rail advocates, who had pushed the concept with little success for most of last year.
But what it misses is that "most of last year" was spent very successfully laying the essential groundwork for saving the railroad and starting a commuter service on it, including (1) conducting an intensive public education program, (2) testifying repeatedly to government agencies, (3) helping defeat the ill-conceived Proposition 1 and (4) exposing the fact that the PSRC's costly and much-heralded BNSF Corridor Preservation Study is severely flawed and thus its core recommendation (i.e., to scrap the railroad) is without merit.

The article also says:

...several political leaders, including Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon and Kirkland Mayor James Lauinger, have expressed support or interest in the BNSF corridor.
This is a huge understatement. The fact is that numerous (not just "several") political leaders have expressed their support for (and not just "interest in") retaining the railroad itself (and not just the "corridor") and utilizing it for a commuter rail service. They include officials at the city, regional and state levels.

Another interesting statement:

Advocates say the line would cost $100 million to $250 million, but some transit officials are skeptical.
What is missing is the fact that Sound Transit has said that its far shorter (and much less useful) East Link light rail line from Seattle to Bellevue would cost only about $3.9 billion (or about $325 million for each mile), exclusive of cost overruns, etc. -- and that it will be in operation by the year 2027! Moreover, advocates of the Eastside railroad point out that a simple, three-year pilot commuter service could be put into operation almost immediately for as little as $10 million and that a very substantial upgrading of the railroad could be accomplished for as little as $40 million. Of course "some transit officials are skeptical," because they do not want a very low cost and sensible project to distract the public from supporting their ultra-expensive and otherwise-troubled East Link pet project.

All aboard Eastside commuter rail (by Lance Dickie, editorial columnist, Seattle Times, January 25, 2008) -- There is little new in this editorial other than the somewhat astonishing statement:

The Cascade Bicycle Club is confident its needs -- approximately 23 feet for a paved path, two shoulders, a buffer and vertical barrier -- can happily coexist with a commuter line in the broad right of way.
This may be the first time that, at least part of, the true nature of the proposed trail has been revealed in the mainstream media. This is not a tranquil, environmentally-sensitive path that would be suitable for a leisurely bicycle ride or stroll in the woods and that is safe for the kids. It is essentially a monstrous, high speed freeway for bicycles, and it is thus clear why King County has estimated its construction cost at a whopping $200 million or more.

Dickie concludes with the non-sequitur: "And start the bike path fast. No waiting for the train." But what's the hurry? What's the rationale? The real and urgent need is for a low cost, environmentally-beneficial commuter rail service through the Eastside as an alternative to taxing and spending endless billions for the continual widening of the toxics-spewing I-405. How many residents along the railroad right of way would like what is now mainly a pleasant, tranquil greenbelt to be largely replaced by this wide swath of asphalt? And why should property owners and renters be asked to pay the huge cost -- both monetary and environmental -- especially when the region already has more miles of trails than almost anywhere else, including some lightly used ones that already parallel parts of the railroad? This does not make much more sense than King County Executive Ron Sims' urgent plea to scrap the railroad as quickly as possible.

Port on track to purchase BNSF corridor (The Woodinville Weekly, January 7, 2008) -- Writer Jeanette Knutson has done it again with another excellent article about the latest developments in the battle to save and utilize the Eastside railroad. This front page story correctly implies that the future of the railroad is now virtually assured as a result of the recent decision by the Port of Seattle to purchase it intact, the endorsement of that decision by the King County Council, the strong political will on the Eastside to retain the rails, and the rapidly growing interest in launching a commuter service on the railroad.

Area commutes taking longer (Seattle Times, December 21, 2007) -- Data compiled by WSDOT shows that the largest increase in average travel time of 38 commuter routes in the central Puget Sound area between 2004 and 2006 was for the 13.5 mile morning trip from Tukwila to Bellevue, which jumped by seven minutes to an agonizing 42 minutes. Interestingly, this is one of the segments of the Eastside railroad that King County Executive Ron Sims has recently been pushing the hardest to scrap and replace with a bicycle trail -- and it is also one that is already mostly paralleled by a bicycle trail. (The other segment is from Woodinville to Redmond, which is likewise already paralleled by a bicycle trail.) Does this make any sense to anyone other than the Executive?

Rails, trails and flails (Seattle Times, December 21, 2007) -- If the suggestion made at the start of the article for a "time out" refers to King County Executive Ron Sims' push to scrap the railroad as quickly as possible, it is obviously an excellent suggestion. The railroad has served the region for more than a century, and it is difficult to imagine any great advantage of hastily removing the tracks without fully considering the large and irreversible consequences.

The article then says:

The rail line is acquired for public use and holds great promise as a bicycle trail and commuter corridor. That exciting potential for dual use was endorsed last June by local officials, bicycle groups, environmentalists and transportation advocates.
This is puzzling, or perhaps just poorly written, because a commuter rail service would likely be used by far more people than a bicycle trail. So why is the minor use listed first? Also, why are additional uses not mentioned, including as an emergency freight rail bypass, a linear nature preserve and a pedestrian-friendly trail?

It is also puzzling because it fails to point out that the so-called "dual use" endorsement was merely a charade put on by the Executive and his usual supporters for scrapping the railroad. This is evidenced by the facts that it did not include any advocates for saving and utilizing the railroad (e.g., Eastside Rail Now! and the Sierra Club) and that the Executive has continued to push relentlessly for scrapping the railroad -- and for doing so as quickly as possible. Also important to keep in mind is that the Executive defines "dual use" as (1) immediately scrapping the railroad, (2) constructing a bicycle trail on its roadbed and (3) making vague promises that consideration might be given to restoring the railroad several decades in the future.

Rail corridor plan approved (Seattle Times, December 17, 2007) -- The key statement in this article is

The agreement transfers the county's right to purchase the corridor to the port, in exchange for which the port will determine its future use through a public process and give King County the right of first refusal if the port agrees to sell all or part of the right of way.
That the Port of Seattle will initially purchase the entire railroad means that King County Executive Ron Sims cannot call in the bulldozers to begin scrapping it immediately as he did when King County acquired the East Lake Sammamish rail line several years ago. And that the Port will determine the railroad's use through a "public process" is another very positive sign for a region that was labeled by The Economist in 2005 as having the worst transportation planning in North America.

Port's rail plan deal set to move forward (Seattle P-I, December 14, 2007) -- Perhaps the most significant statement in this article is:

There already is a paved biking-walking trail between Renton and Bellevue, which parallels the track and Interstate 405 most of the way.
This may be the first time that the mainstream media has come close to officially acknowledging the bizarre fact that King County Executive Ron Sims is pushing relentlessly to scrap the strategic Eastside railroad in order to build a bicycle trail on its roadbed even though substantial sections of the railroad are already paralleled by trails. (See The Strange Case of the Already Existing Trails.)

This article also reveals the latest tactic by the Executive and his ever-creative staff, which is to insinuate that the Port of Seattle cannot be trusted to keep the corridor intact. But the real danger to the corridor is, of course, the Executive himself, because he would, if he could, take immediate steps that would make it virtually impossible for the corridor to be utilized for its most valuable use for many years, and perhaps forever.

Sims to let Port buy rail line (Seattle Times, December 14, 2007) -- Still further evidence of the growing resistance to King County Executive Ron Sims' ill-conceived and stubborn push to scrap the Eastside railroad is provided by a quote from Port of Seattle Commission President John Creighton:

"I've gotten a letter from the Woodinville mayor saying don't tear up the tracks, I've got a letter from the mayor of Bellevue saying don't tear up the tracks, and I just got out of a meeting with the mayor of Burien who said you would be crazy to tear up the tracks."

Port moves closer to deal on rail corridor (Seattle P-I, December 12, 2007) -- Although perhaps technically correct, this article is misleading. It says that if King County rips out the tracks

...the corridor could still be used for future public transit because it would be rail-banked as a non-motorized corridor, according to the 1983 "Rails to Trails" act.
To date there have been virtually no examples of success in the reinstallation of railroads that have been rail-banked, despite the supposed "guarantees" of the Rails-to-Trails Act. And there is no indication that the situation would be any different on the Eastside, as evidenced by the dogged determination with which the bicycle trail advocates are fighting to have the railroad scrapped.

Deal could be near on Eastside rail corridor (Seattle Times, December 12, 2007) -- In the wake of successive failures of his push to have the Eastside railroad scrapped, one of King County Executive Ron Sims' newest tactics has been to attempt to have the County buy just parts of the railroad, specifically the sections from North Renton to Bellevue and from Woodinville to Redmond. He would then immediately scrap those sections (both of which are already paralleled by trails) in order to assure that railroad would become useless for commuter rail and as an emergency freight bypass, and thereby facilitate removing the rest of the track as well.

Ron Sims backs off Eastside rails-to-trail deadline (Seattle P-I, December 10, 2007) -- This article fails to mention that King County Executive Sims' (not at all unexpected) backing down in his showdown with the Port of Seattle over his insistence that the Eastside railroad be immediately scrapped is just the latest development in what could easily be the biggest blunder of his political career. Some say that the Executive became over-confident (and overly arrogant) as a result of his victories in the bitter (and far from forgotten) battles over the East Lake Sammamish rail line and the Brightwater waste water treatment facility.

Port commits to buying Eastside rail line (Seattle Times, December 11, 2007) -- This is a brief report of the unanimous and historic vote by the Port of Seattle Commissioners to purchase the Eastside railroad from Burlington Northern. It correctly points out that there is considerable controversy regarding the future use of the railroad and states:

The county and the Port are continuing to discuss how best to accommodate "dual use" of the corridor for both trail and rail use.
The article should have also mentioned that there is likewise some controversy regarding the meaning of the nice-sounding term "dual use." King County Executive Ron Sims and his staff apparently define it as meaning that the railroad should be scrapped immediately and a bicycle trail built on top of its roadbed and that a vague promise would be made to allow consideration of converting it back into a railroad several decades in the future.

Will King County back out of the Eastside rails-to-trails deal? (Seattle P-I, December 6, 2007) -- The Port Commission planned to announce its intention at its December 11 meeting regarding whether it would rip up the tracks on the Eastside railroad or leave them intact. This was after the December 7 deadline for a decision that had been demanded by King County Executive Ron Sims. The article points out that a majority of the five Port Commissioners had earlier said that they would buy the corridor regardless of "whether or not King County was on the hook to turn it into a trail."

Innovative transit idea shouldn't be dismissed (HeraldNet, December 4, 2007) -- This editorial in Snohomish County's leading newspaper is yet another indication of the growing concern throughout the region about King County Executive Ron Sims' push to scrap the Eastside railroad and of the increasing interest in using the railroad for a commuter rail service in the wake of the defeat of Proposition 1.

Eastside rail: We just don't get it (by Alfred Runte, guest columnist, Seattle Times, December 4, 2007) -- Everything that former Seattle mayoral candidate and historian Runte says is absolutely correct. The article is well written and enjoyable to read.

Cascadia's rails and trail campaign catching attention (The Woodinville Weekly, December 3, 2007) -- Writer Jeanette Knutson has certainly done her homework. This is clearly one of the best articles about the Eastside railroad situation to date. It is good not only because it shows the growing momentum towards saving the railroad and using it as the core of a regional commuter rail service, but also because it is fairly comprehensive and completely accurate. The only thing that Knutson was not able to do was to turn up a sensible reason for scrapping the railroad -- but she can hardly be blamed, as nobody else has been able to do that either.

Sims to Port: No deal if rails stay (Seattle Times, December 1, 2007) -- The threat by the King County Executive to pull out of the Port of Seattle's deal to purchase the Eastside railroad from Burlington Northern if the Port refuses to have the track removed was, of course, great news for the Eastside, with its desperate need for rail transit. This well-written article also shows some of the growing sentiment among public officials to stop the destruction of what is potentially one of the region's greatest transportation assets.

Rails-to-trail deal hits bump (Seattle P-I, November 29, 2007) -- This very significant article is about King County Executive Ron Sims' controversial (and some say threatening) letter to the Port of Seattle in which he pleads that it require that removal of the tracks be included in any deal by the Port to purchase the Eastside railroad. The article contains a link to a PDF version of the five-page letter. Be sure to see Eastside Rail Now's official response to the letter.

An idea for transit crises (Seattle Times, November 28, 2007) -- Seattle Times staff columnist Danny Westneat has the courage to say what many who are genuinely concerned about global warming and the other ills of Los Angeles-style, ultra-wide freeways have long thought but have been reluctant to say for fear of ridicule. He proposes that the widening of I-405 freeway be canceled. Part of the many billions of dollars in savings should be devoted to rebuilding the SR 520 floating bridge before it sinks and $100 million of the savings should be used to upgrade the Eastside railroad and start a commuter service on it.

Report: $37 million option for Eastside train (Seattle Times, November 28, 2007) -- Read Fay, a retired BNSF regional manager, points out quite correctly that the existing tracks on the Eastside railroad could be substantially upgraded (including new rails, ties and ballast) for as little as $37 million using standard, automated equipment. Such an upgrading would be sufficient to provide a significant increase in speed and capacity above the current 30 mph speed limit for passenger trains.

However, the article fails to mention that Fay also stated that such equipment must run on the existing rails, and that it would thus not be possible to use it if the track were removed, as is being pushed by King County Executive Ron Sims. Consequently, reinstalling the track years later, as some trail advocates claim they would be willing to consider, would add hundreds of millions of dollars to the cost.

Burn calories, not carbon (By Keith Laughlin, guest columnist, Seattle Times, November 22, 2007) -- This article by the president of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is very useful in that it shows what sadly appears to be the true agenda of that organization. The author begins by stating how he is concerned about the obesity epidemic and climate change. This is, of course, very good -- we all should be. But scrapping the railroad is not the way to fight either. Not only is utilizing the railroad for a commuter rail service one of the biggest things that the Eastside could do to fight climate change, but it would also be an important step in fighting obesity. The reason for the latter is that taking trains would give people the option of walking, jogging or riding bicycles to or from the stations instead of having to drive for the entire journey. The author also conveniently overlooks the facts that the right of way is sufficiently wide for a trail in addition to a railroad and that some sections of the railroad are already paralleled by trails. It would be interesting to see if Laughlin is also advocating scrapping some of the commuter rail lines in the Washington D.C. area, where his organization is based, in order to construct bicycle trails on their trackbeds.

Port could raise taxes for rail corridor (Seattle P-I, November 7, 2007) -- The title was kept the same, but the content of this article was subsequently rewritten to say that revenues from existing property taxes levied by the Port would be used and no new taxes would be required.

The article quotes King County Executive Ron Sims as saying regarding the agreement for the Port of Seattle to acquire the railroad, a key part of which is for the railroad to be scrapped: "This is really a joyous day. The region won." Yes, it would be a "joyous day" for Sims, but it would be a completely unnecessary tragedy for the Eastside and for the region as a whole. Fortunately, the agreement has not yet been approved, and it appears that saner heads are beginning to prevail.

King County and Seattle port buying rail corridor in Snohomish County (HeraldNet, November 6, 2007) -- The main point of the article is the dissatisfaction by Snohomish County officials with King County and the Port of Seattle attempting to acquire and control a major property in their county. It also mentions that there is lingering resentment about the construction of the highly controversial Brightwater sewage treatment facility in Maltby, another one of King County Executive Ron Sims' pet projects. Snohomish County has said that it has no plans or money to construct a trail on or along the railroad.

Rail backers fear trail would doom plan (Seattle Times, November 3, 2007) -- The article starts out:

Port of Seattle commissioners voted unanimously Friday to turn an Eastside rail corridor into one of the country's premier hiking and biking trails while still allowing for the possibility that passenger trains might run right next to joggers and cyclists one day.
If the politicians were really serious about doing something about global warming, traffic congestion and the waste of endless billions to keep widening the toxics-spewing I-405, they would instead vote to turn the Eastside railroad "into one of the country's premier" commuter rail routes "while still allowing for the possibility that" pedestrians, joggers and cyclists might walk, run and ride next to the trains one day.

No, there is virtually no "possibility that passenger trains might run right next to joggers and cyclists one day" if the railroad is scrapped. The very small number of powerful politicians who have been working relentlessly to have the tracks removed (and who then say out of the other side of their mouths that they could be reinstalled some day) are as fully aware of this as is Chuck Mott, leader of All Aboard Washington, who is quoted in the article.

Port to buy Eastside rail corridor (Seattle Times, November 02, 2007) -- The article states:

"It means that we can preserve that corridor for the public forever," both as a trail and as a passenger-rail route, said County Councilmember Julia Patterson. After a trail is built and linked to existing trails, she said, "We will have the most extensive regional trail system in the entire country."
But Patterson is the chair of the committee that produced the fundamentally flawed BNSF Corridor Preservation Study, one of the two main recommendations of which was to scrap the strategic Eastside railroad in order to build a bicycle trail on its roadbed. So why all the talk about "passenger-rail" when the rails will be gone? Patterson is correct that it would produce the most extensive trail system in the country. But she forgets to point out that the region already has one of the most extensive trail systems in the country and that ripping out the tracks would be the end of the only railroad on the Eastside and the only remaining alternative north-south rail line west of the Cascades.

Port agrees to pay $103M for Eastside rail corridor (Puget Sound Business Journal, November 2, 2007)

Deal would save Eastside rail corridor for trails (Seattle P-I, November 1, 2007) -- The title says it all.

No extra dinner train payment (News Tribune, October 31st, 2007) -- There was at least a little bit of good news for the operators of the dinner train. Tacoma Rail said that it would not enforce the provision of their written agreement that required them to provide a 30 day advance notice of termination of operations. This means that the city-owned railroad would not try to collect charges other than those the dinner train owes for its actual operations.

Dinner train runs short course in Tacoma (Seattle Times, October 31, 2007) -- This is the best of the articles about the demise of the Tacoma dinner train.

Dinner train leaves Tacoma (News Tribune, October 30, 2007)

Spirit of Washington dinner train closes; new routes weighed (Seattle P-I, October 30, 2007)

Spirit of Washington Dinner Train closes (Herald Net, October 30, 2007)

Dinner train shutting down (Puget Sound Business Journal, October 30, 2007) -- A very short article with no unique content.

Dinner train shuts down after move to Pierce County (Seattle Times, October 30, 2007) -- Like all of the articles about the demise of the Tacoma dinner train, this AP article misses the most important point. It is that the fundamental reason the dinner train was forced to end its run on the Eastside was in order to remove the remaining traffic from the Eastside railroad and thereby facilitate its scrapping. The cutting of the line at Wilburton tunnel for the widening of the I-405 freeway is just another tactic that is being used by the opponents of the railroad to facilitate its scrapping and not the fundamental reason that dinner train was forced to relocate. It was clear to many observers right from the start that the prospects for success in running the dinner train in Tacoma were poor, and the real surprise was that its owner Eric Temple even attempted it at all.

Eastside rail corridor should serve bicyclists and commuters (by guest columnists Larry Phillips, Jane Hague and John Creighton, Seattle Times, August 8, 2007) -- This article by two of the leading King County Councilmembers and the Port of Seattle Commission President is another indication of the shift in attitude that has been taking place among the political leadership away from scrapping the Eastside railroad and towards saving and upgrading it. Perhaps the most significant paragraph is the following:

Some initially envisioned the King County portion of the corridor would be used exclusively as a trail, with rail use an uncertain future possibility. Subsequently, the concept of joint rail and trail operations has solidified as the preferred vision.
Also extremely significant is the fact that the term freight mobility was mentioned three times in the article. This indicates that the leadership is finally starting to recognize the very important potential freight role of the railroad in addition to its somewhat more obvious passenger role.

Debate heats up over Eastside rail line (Kirkland Reporter, August 1, 2007, not available online) -- Writer Erika Hobart did a good job of trying to create a balanced article, as journalists are taught to do regardless of the merits of each side of an issue. The article contains extensive comments from two Eastside Rail Now! members as well as from King County and Sound Transit officials. The latter two sources have the usual excuses for wanting to scrap the railroad, including that there is supposedly no demand for rail transit in the I-405 corridor (even though it is the most congested corridor in the entire Northwest), no money is available to put the tracks back in (after they are torn out at a cost of many tens of millions of dollars to the taxpayers) and priority should be given to Sound Transit's proposed East Link light rail line between Seattle and Bellevue (which, prior to the defeat of Proposition 1, had been scheduled for completion in 2027).

Rails to trail idea may stay in port-county plan (Seattle P-I, July 28, 2007) -- The title is highly misleading, as there is no indication that the new Port of Seattle leadership is interested in giving money to King County to rip out the Eastside railroad and replace it with a bicycle trail. Perhaps the most interesting point in this otherwise good article is that in addition to rejecting the original airport-railroad swap deal proposed by King County Executive Ron Sims, the new Port of Seattle Executive Director Tay Yoshitani also stated the Port does not like a modified deal that the increasingly desperate Sims subsequently suggested. Under that plan, the Port's contribution would be cut back from $169 million to $147 million, with the savings coming from a reduced expenditure for the trail obtained by leaving bridges, trestles and road crossings intact.

The article also mentions that King County Councilmember Larry Phillips supports public purchase of the railroad, but that he is in favor of the cost being spread among more agencies, rather than just King County and the Port. Among these additional agencies is likely Sound Transit. Spreading the cost would help insure that the railroad would be used for its most valuable use, which is to move passengers and freight in an extremely congested corridor, not as a bicycle trail (in a region that already has more bicycle trails than almost anywhere else).

Port commissioners not interested in deal to own Boeing Field (Seattle Times, July 27, 2007) -- This rejection of the airport-railroad swap deal announced in the first major speech by Tay Yoshitani, the new Executive Director of the Port of Seattle, marked a turning point in the battle to save the Eastside railroad.

The one obvious problem with the article is its statement that "Rail advocates have argued that the corridor should be preserved for future train use." It misses the point that both the opponents and the advocates of the Eastside railroad want to keep the corridor intact. Eastside Rail Now! is advocating that, additionally, both the railroad itself and the full width of its mostly 100-foot right of way, and not just the corridor (which could be reduced to a strip of land as narrow as 25 feet), should be kept intact so that they can be used not only for rail services (including commuter rail) but also for a linear nature preserve and a pedestrian-friendly trail. (See Corridor vs. Tracks vs. Right of Way.)

Sims wants to pick up speed on land-swap deal (Seattle Times, June 28, 2007) -- It is interesting to note that the "agreement" mentioned in this article that was signed by King County Executive Ron Sims and others as they stood on the tracks in Renton did not include any advocates of saving the railroad, such as Eastside Rail Now! and the Sierra Club, but only advocates of saving the corridor (for a bicycle trail). Also, those signing it failed to mention the real agenda, which is to scrap the railroad, and they merely made a vague promise that the corridor could be used for transit at some date in the distant future.

It appears that the reason Sims has been trying to speed up the swap deal is that he knows that the longer he waits, the more difficult it will be to proceed with his plan to scrap the railroad. This is largely because of the growing public opposition as more and more people become aware of his true agenda. Another reason is changes in the political leadership, such as the election of more reform-oriented candidates in November. In addition, defeat of the massive Roads & Transit measure on the November ballot could result in increased interest in more effective and far less costly solutions to the region's mounting traffic and environmental woes, such as utilizing the Eastside railroad.

Dinner train makes tracks to Tacoma (Seattle Times, June 14, 2007) -- As with almost all other articles about the dinner train, this one fails to mention the very important point that there was no real necessity for relocating it. Rather, the underlying reason for Burlington Northern's refusal to renew the train's lease is part of the strategy to rid the Eastside railroad of all of its traffic in order facilitate its scrapping after acquisition by King County.

Sims hopes to buy time for rails-for-trails (Seattle P-I, July 13, 2007) -- This article states that King County Executive Ron Sims said: " ... the plan has always been to eventually add rail transit to the bike trail." It then quotes him as saying: "If the money were available, we'd build modern commuter or high capacity transit rail immediately." The first statement contradicts what has been earlier said by some of Sims' allies in the King County government, namely that the existing rail right of way would likely never be suitable for transit, or that it should only be seriously considered after the year 2027. Also not mentioned in the article is the seeming (or, most likely, real) contradiction that although Sims is obsessed with ripping out the tracks (and as quickly as possible), he has stated elsewhere that he would then apply for federal and state aid to put them back in. Nor is the fact mentioned that some funds for upgrading the existing tracks could likewise become available were Sims not so intent on removing them.

Land swap not ideal way to acquire Eastside corridor (by guest columnist Larry Phillips, Seattle Times, May 23, 2007) -- This is a good article and well worth reading.

Dinner Train talks chug toward new route (Seattle Times, Snohomish County Edition, May 23, 2007) -- This article contains several misleading statements. Also, it only mentions the expected benefits to the City of Snohomish of relocating the dinner train and completely ignores the far greater loss to the region as a whole, including to Snohomish County, if King County Executive Ron Sims were to succeed in his plan to replace most of the railroad with a bicycle trail.

Sound Transit to look into BNSF line (Seattle Times, April 27, 2007) -- This vote by the Sound Transit board to study the Eastside railroad as part of its ST2 transit package, although far weaker than desired by advocates of preserving the railroad and using it for commuter rail, nevertheless was a step forward. This is because it put the railroad on Sound Transit's agenda and because it created a good deal of publicity about using the railroad for passenger service.

King County Councilmember Julia Patterson's quote that "the existing route is single-tracked, so it couldn't be used for transit as is" shows that she still does not understand transportation basics. There are numerous single-tracked rail transit lines in the U.S. and abroad that provide a very high quality of service.

Patterson also made the somewhat puzzling statement that:

In the short term, population density and transit ridership at the BNSF line would be weak, so the money to launch a new line would be better spent building Sound Transit's proposed east-west line beyond Overlake.
In fact. the railroad parallels the most congested freeway in the entire Northwestern U.S. and passes through or near most major destinations on the Eastside. Thus, it could have a very substantial ridership (certainly far greater than the roughly 800 daily boardings for the Sounder's north line.) Moreover, the cost of a major upgrading could be as little as $40 million, versus roughly $3.9 billion (exclusive of cost overruns) for Sound Transit's proposed east-west line.

Now is time to study Eastside transit corridor (by Julia Patterson, Bellevue Reporter, April 18, 2007; not available online) -- This article is somewhat vague, and several people who read it could not agree on exactly what Patterson was trying to say (or thinking). However, it is consistent with the April 12 article in The Current River News (see below) in that it indicates that she may be softening her position. Patterson is an astute politician who may (or may not) have sensed both the strong desire on the Eastside for rail transit as quickly as possible and the growing outrage over the plan to scrap the railroad.

Patterson proposes transit study of BNSF corridor rails and trails possibilities moving forward (The River Current News, April 12, 2007) -- This article reflects what at the time appeared to be signs of a possible shifting of King County Councilmember and Sound Transit Board member Julia Patterson's position towards retention of the tracks in the face of a growing public outcry against the proposed destruction of the Eastside railroad. Although she still seems to be emphasizing the trail, this article contains Patterson's strongest statement to date in favor of considering passenger service for the railroad.

Swapping Boeing Field for Eastside rail line faces rough road (Seattle Times, April 16, 2007) -- The article focuses on the airport issues regarding the proposed -- and increasingly troubled -- swap.

New 520 bridge may mean new taxes (Seattle P-I, April 15, 2007) -- Even the additional $16 billion from the November vote would not be sufficient to rebuild the 520 bridge, nor would it do much to fund other costly projects wanted by road advocates. The obvious, but unsaid, implication is that a fundamental rethinking is needed for transportation policy for the region.

Eastside residents want commuter rail in the BNSF corridor (Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce, April 13, 2007; article only available to subscribers) -- This is a brief summary of testimony regarding ST2 at Sound Transit's April 12 Board Meeting as well as Sound Transit's public response. (A typo in the article stating that King County "... has promised to preserve the tracks for some future time..." was corrected in a subsequent edition.)

Rethink Eastside rail-corridor deal (by Larry Phillips, guest columnist, Seattle Times, March 6, 2007) -- The King County Councilmember provides a good look at some of the problems associated with trading an airport worth more than $400 million for a $169 million bicycle trail. He asks: "Why are we throwing away valuable property so far below market value?"

Building trails, preserving rails (by Julia Patterson, guest columnist, Seattle Times, February 28, 2007) -- This otherwise nicely-written article contains several misleading statements that reflect or magnify the bias of the severely flawed BNSF Corridor Preservation Study. Thus, the article as a whole is basically useless.

Preliminary deal reached to turn rail line into trail (Seattle Times, February 26, 2007) -- Undoubtedly the most accurate statement quoted in the article was by Al Runte, of the rail transport advocacy group All Aboard Washington, who called the plan "the dumbest idea this region has had." With regard to transportation, the environment and fiscal responsibility Runte is absolutely correct; however, he misses the point that it is an absolutely brilliant deal from the standpoint of superficially appearing to benefit the public (and fooling most of it) while possibly providing many hundreds of millions of dollars of benefits to already wealthy special interests (most of whom do not ride bicycles).

Swapping airport for rails not a done deal, Some on council question proposal (Seattle P-I, February 3, 2007)

Rail-to-trail plan sparks debate over Eastside line (Seattle Times, January 30, 2007)

Plan to de-rail the Eastside is way off track (by columnist Bill Virgin, Seattle P-I, November 21, 2006)

... and add a separate trail (by guest columnist Alec Fisken, Seattle Times, November 9, 2006) -- This Port of Seattle Commissioner states that "saving the rail is critical" and calls the plan to remove the tracks "a disastrous mistake."

Dinner train seeks fans' support (Seattle Times, February 17, 2006) -- The dinner train folks were formerly among the most vociferous opponents of ripping out the track, as they should be. However, they suddenly became strangely silent. They know why, somebody else knows why, and Eastside Rail Now! knows why.

It's not about the dinner, it's about carrying the freight (James F. Vesely's editorial page column, Seattle Times, June 19, 2005) -- This important article quotes an e-mail from Eric Temple (owner of the dinner train) that explains that it was really King County that brought up the idea of scrapping the Eastside railroad, and it was "not BNSF's desire nor some financial necessity that was driving this." It also quotes Temple as pointing out, quite correctly, that there is sufficient existing and potential freight traffic on the line for a specialist in operating short line railroads to be interested in taking it over.

A golden opportunity to preserve public use (by guest columnist Mike Cooper, Seattle Times, June 15, 2005) -- Like many articles and editorials, this one overlooks the fact that the most valuable use of the corridor (i.e., rail transit) could be lost for decades, if not forever, if the rails are ripped out.

Put brakes on rail-to-trail plan, some say (Seattle Times, May 17, 2005)

King County trying to buy rail corridor for new trail (Seattle Times, May 16, 2005) -- This article provides yet more evidence as to how King County Executive Ron Sims was pushing to scrap the Eastside railroad well before there was even any pretense of an objective study of its potential (which, by the way, has yet to be made, at least by or for a government agency).

The article quotes Sims as saying: "I don't think we'll have the issues with this that we had with the East Lake Sammamish Trail." The Executive's prediction is turning out to be quite correct. The issues (and consequences) this time are indeed very different, and he could only dream that they were the same as with the East Lake Sammamish trail.

Look at buying Eastside rail corridor, region told (Seattle P-I, June 11, 2004)

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This page created April 17, 2007. Last updated May 2, 2008.
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